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 Vol. 5, No. 5 

May 2003

~ Page 11 ~

The Goodness and Severity of God

By Raymond Elliott

“Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off” (Romans 11:22, NKJV). One of the first truths that small children learn about God is that he is good. A prayer of thanksgiving offered by boys and girls is: “God is great, God is good; let us thank him for our food...” The Bible speaks often of the goodness of God. “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 33:5). “For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations” (Psalm 100:5). “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His truth endures to all generations” (Psalm 118:29). It was said of the seed of Abraham, God’s chosen people, in ages past: “Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart” (Psalm 73:1). Yes, God blessed Israel abundantly as long as the people were faithful to him.

Likewise, God's goodness and mercy have been manifested toward all men in the giving of Jesus to die for the sins of mankind (Romans 5:8; John 3:16,17). James declared in his epistle, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:17). In order to enjoy the blessings of a spiritual nature in Christ, man has to turn to God in trust and in obedience. These blessings are "in the heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3). And, the way a penitent believer gets into Christ is through the act of baptism (Galatians 3:26-27). However, all men, both good and evil, enjoy temporal and physical blessings (Matthew 5:45). The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 2:4: "Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?"

On the other hand, God is also a just God, exacting severity upon all those who disobey him. Both the Old and New Testaments are replete with examples of God punishing the disobedient. Adam and Eve brought suffering and death to the human family through their sin (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-2). God also drove them from the Garden of Eden and from the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24). The Lord placed a curse on Cain for murdering his brother Abel (Genesis 4:9-15). The people of Noah's day were destroyed by water because of the greatness of their corruption and sin (Genesis 6:5-7). Nadab and Abihu, priests of God and sons of Aaron, were consumed with fire because they dared to violate God's law regarding the fire that should have been used in the offering of animal sacrifices (Leviticus 10:1-3; 6:8-13). The Lord even scattered Israel from off the land of Canaan because of their sins (Leviticus 26:33: Nehemiah 1:8). God is indeed one of severity.

Today, warnings can be found in the covenant of Jesus Christ concerning punishment for those who live in sin. The Lord taught that they who enter the wide gate and travel the broad way would eventually suffer destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus frequently spoke of a place called hell (Greek, Gehenna, see Matthew 5:22, 29-30). The wicked will enter this place of eternal punishment when the Lord comes again (Matthew 25:46). Paul declared that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23), that is, everlasting separation from God. The apostle John mentioned, "the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever..." (Revelation 14:11).

Yes, God is a God of love, goodness, mercy and grace, but he is also a God of justice and severity. Every sin not covered by the blood of his Son must be dealt with and justice must be exacted. We all should desire to place our faith in Jesus Christ as being the Son of God and give our lives in humble submission to the will of the Heavenly Father (Mark 16:15,16; Matthew 7:21; Hebrews 5:8,9; Revelation 2:10).Image

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